Tuesday, May 19, 2015

INDY 500: Multiple Entries en Vogue...

1923 Cliff Durant racecar. (Image source: earlyaviators.com)
It seems like every year round Spring, I begin slipping into 'Wayback mode, reveling over bygone periods 'O Indy 500 history. Alas, this is probably what sparked me into thy revelry, along with having been a slow year for "Boom Day" excitement when I pondered this Questione originally 'Wayback in 'Twenty-twelve...  Oh wait a 'My-nute, that's right, there wasn't any Bumping 'cause we had the brand new Dallara DW12 which condensed  the "Gene Pool"  for potential entrants that year...

 I know that Three-car "Super-teams" have been around the Speedway for a long time, with Roger Penske doing this feat multiple times, not to mention Andretti-Green Racing (AGR) and going as far back as the Blue Crown Spark Plug Specials and Team Lotus...

But when Townsend Bell qualifies this weekend, (2012) will it be the first time for two teams to have three cars entered in the Indy 500 apiece, i.e.; Penske and KV Racing Technology?

That was a question I posed to Mr. Donald Davidson back then. Whom hopefully I haven’t misquoted below, since this trivia has languished unbottled here in Nofendersville  for awhile now, although I didn't get the exact answer to my original trivia question above, nor am I certain if I heard the following trivia on The Talk of Gasoline Alley then?

Was Lou Moore’s entry of four Blue Crown Spark Plug Specials entered at Indianapolis the most by a single team owner?

If you said no, it's Andretti Green Racing’s tally of five entries in 2006-07, you’re wrong! As the correct answer is Cliff Durant in 1923 with seven entries...

Cliff Durant
Russell Clifford "Cliff" Durant was the son of William Crapo Durant, (1861-1947) Co-founder of General Motors and Chevrolet before losing both of them, having been ousted from GM twice before subsequently starting Durant Motors in 1921.

As Durant Motors was modeled on his principal of multi-brands, with the newly formed entity marketing the Star, Flint and Durant models, along with  Locomobile which had been acquired during its liquidation in 1922, and later trucks named Rugby, before the company ceased operations in 1931 after the great Stock Market crash of 1929.

Cliff, William's only son entered cars bearing his Surname & motor car company beginning in 1922 for himself, although the defending race winner Tommy Milton did have an association with Durant and raced cars of his own design under the name of Durant/Miller.

Yet the Triple-A Sanctioning Body later that year banned Milton's entry because a Durant dealer had fictitiously claimed that the Durant's he sold had the very same motors as Milton's car used!

Next Clifford followed his rookie soiree at the Speedway by entering five cars along with sponsoring another three, for an unheard tally of eight entries! And then in 1924 Durant "Downsized" to a modest five entries before the Durant name vanished from the Brickyard Name-wise for Cars entered, although Cliff did race twice more before retiring from the 500.

Yet further Durant Motors brands and model names did continue to be used at Mother Speedway, when in 1925 two Junior '8' cars were entered, with one being a radical front drive Miller. Along with a solitary Flint also racing.

Then In 1926, Cliff was the chauffer of the No. 9 Locomobile Junior 8, paired with Leon Duray aboard the No. 10 'Seester Locomobile Junior 8. Presumably in vain to conjure up business for Durant Motors luxury Locomobile brand, before another pair of Junior 8's raced in 1927.

Then for Durant's  final foray at Mother Speedway, in 1928,  Cliff was behind the wheel of a Detroit/Miller racecar, known as the Detroit Special - having been designed for him by Two-time Indy 500 winner Tommy Milton, who Cliff had  urged to race it the year prior, ultimately Milton's final race at Indianapolis...

Russell Clifford "Cliff" Durant made his second Indy 500 start after his rookie debut three years prior, this time aboard a car named Durant, obviously in interest of promoting Durant Motors for which his father founded and Cliff served as president of. As Cliff started eleventh and finished one place down in twelfth.

For the eleventh International Sweepstakes race, as noted above, Durant Motors entered five cars plus sponsored three more for a total of eight. All entries were Millers - comprising one-third of the entire field, with only 24-competitors taking part in the race  on Wednesday, May 30th.

The Durant Armada finished : 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 13th, 16th and 21st. With Harry Hartz leading reigning Indianapolis 500 winner  Jimmy Murphy, Eddie Hearne,  Frank Elliot, Cliff Durant, Leon Duray, Rookie Harlan Fengler and Earl Cooper respectively, albeit the latter three retired.

No. 5, Jimmy Murphy; No. 6, Eddie Hearne*; No. 7, Harry Hartz; No. 8, Cliff Durant*; No. 26, R-Harlan Fengler*; No. 28, Leon Duray*; No. 29, Earl Cooper*; No. 31, Frank Elliot*..

Durant also had 5-cars in ’24, although this time in total, apparently not wishing to sponsor any other teams drivers. As perennial Front-runner Harry Hartz was the highest placed Durant in fourth with the rookie Fred Conner the only other of this quintet to finish in the Top-10, finishing seventh.

Jerry wonderlich finished one place ahead of Boss  Cliff Durant, who was classified P13, the first driver not to finish 200-laps, having ran out of fuel on Lap-198. And 1923 National Champion Eddie Hearne, sporting the No. 1 plate finished 19th after retiring on Lap-150 with fuel tank issues...

No. 1, Eddie Hearne*; No. 4, Harry Hartz; No. 7, Jerry Wonderlich*; No. 14, R-Fred Conner*; No. 16, Cliff Durant*.

(* = Had Relief driver)